Small fields were the order of the day for this rearranged fixture, with the final two races shrouded in mist and the last heat not going off until just after 6.05pm. The ground was officially Good to Firm, but in several opinions this only applied to a one hundred yard stretch in the back straight and it was genuinely good elsewhere.
Fine Times seems to reserve his best for Market Rasen these days and Milson Robinson’s stalwart landed the opening Hunt Members race under Matt Mackley. He was conceding at least seven pounds to each of his three rivals and it was his eighth victory in total between the flags. He was getting the better of the argument with Coonogue when that one came down at the last. This left Hopping Mad and Mark Bennison a distance back in second and Working Class Hero and Oliver Williams even further in arrears in third. Coonogue was remounted by Nick Kent to take fourth. Coonogue has pieces of form in his native Ireland and this was a sound first display in the UK.
Six faced the starter in the Confined, which went to Stoney River and Clive Mulhall in a close finish that saw the first three covered by two lengths. The winner looked a beaten third with three to jump, but a devastating turn of foot allowed him to lead at the last and stay on well. Stoney River had come on leaps and bounds for his seasonal reappearance at Brocklesby Park last week. Runner-up The Graduate (Simon Walker) was under pressure some way out. Physical Force, with Philip Kinsella aboard, was third and is coming to hand. He has a race or two in him. Noble Affair (Matt Mackley) was fourth.
The Ladies Open had five competitors and a warm favourite in Strongtrooper. However, it was Round The Bend and Louise Allan that claimed the spoils. Strength in the saddle from his experienced pilot gained the day for Round The Bend. He had previously shown just poor form last season and this. The race had looked runner-up Strongtrooper’s for the taking as he was going well within himself, but Jacqueline Coward had the disadvantage of the outside line on the final bend. The ten-year-old couldn’t quite reel in Round The Bend on the run-in. Shallow River was a well beaten third for Hannah Phizacklea. Only three finished as Left Bank was pulled up on the home turn and Ardmayle crashed out at the third fence.
Three runners for the Mens Open and an apparent match on paper and in the market. And so it proved as outsider Valman hit the deck at the final ditch. Silver Streak (Richard Armson) beat Torn Silk (Clive Mulhall) by 15 lengths. Silver Streak has been victorious at both Market Rasen meetings in 2005, as well as decent placed efforts at Welbeck and Brocklesby Park. It meant a double on the card for owner/trainer Milson Robinson. Torn Silk often comes into his own later in the season and was eased after the final fence so the winning distance was probably a bit flattering to Silver Streak.
All known form pointed to Hunca Munca in the nine-runner Restricted and Matt Mackley duly completed a double on the favourite, the mare finding extra when pressed late on. Hunca Munca was not winning out of turn as she was very unfortunate when baulked by a loose horse before three out at Brocklesby Park in February whilst traveling like the proverbial good ’un. Supreme Vintage (Ben Woodhouse) in second stepped up markedly on his Witton Castle maiden victory, going down by just half a length. That maiden victory is working out well though with three of the beaten horses getting off the mark since. Henry Murphy (Laura Eddery) was a close third. He didn’t pull quite so hard as often he has in the past and on this evidence a restricted is within his sights. Having got outpaced, Henry Pearson and Nick Kent stayed on again for fourth.
A supremely confident ride from Clive Mulhall allowed Gipsy Wood to take Division One of the Maiden cosily. The grey made smooth progress to lead at the last and simply had to be pushed out to score. A slipping saddle had put paid to her chances here in January when well-backed. Her three opponents today were Dolly Bell (Thomas Ellis) in second, Northern Breeze (Matt Mackley) in third and Izzyzzenty (Oliver Williams) in fourth.
A real motley crew of eight assembled themselves for Division Two of the Maiden and the hope was that one of the three newcomers might have enough immediate talent. Although she had never remotely threatened to take a hand in a finish previously, Milliners Guide landed the odds, getting able assistance from the saddle by Freya Hartley. A change of rider due to Guy Brewer being suspended and the application of blinkers worked the oracle. The mare’s past form indicated a worryingly high percentage of letters to numbers, although in truth she isn’t all that bad a jumper, but the habit of one serious blunder a race had cost her dear before. It was a welcome first winner of the season for trainer Mary Sowersby. Second-placed Chestnut House and Richard Armson were left behind from the penultimate obstacle, but this was a fair first appearance. These two were all that got round. Money in the ring for the debutant Fair Doo went awry when he departed at the third last, however he was already coming off the bridle at the time. Call Me A Lady and Spot On Tom were both two lengths down on Milliners Guide, but looking held, when they exited at the last. The time was the slowest of the three divisions.
Six lined up for Division Three of the Maiden and it was again low grade stuff. Prioritisation was placed well by trainer/rider Ben Woodhouse to get his head in front, pulling clear in the final quarter mile. On his three starts last season, two of which were in the west country, there wasn’t a lot to recommend him and his visit to Dalton Park earlier in the month had hardly been any better. Bellefleur with Matt Mackley on top gave some faint promise in second. A distant third of three finishers was See More Joy (Mark Bennison).